NETHERLANDS/BELGIUM - The €83bn bank-insurer SNS Reaal is to acquire the Dutch and Belgian businesses of Swiss Life in a €1.5bn (€2.09bn) deal.

SNS will almost quadruple its pensions business if this deal is completed, while becoming the second-largest life-insurer in the Netherlands with a market share of almost 16%, the firm said in a statement this morning.

SNS' ambition is to become the pensions insurer in the Netherlands, it made clear. Therefore, all Reaal Insurances, as well as the recently-acquired AXA Netherlands and insurer Winterthur - which was acquired earlier last year by AXA and originally built its name as a self-invested personal pension (Sipp) provider - will be re-branded as Zwitserleven, and positioned as the specialist pensions brand.

"Zwitserleven is an excellent strategic fit for us, and a unique opportunity to become a market leader in the Dutch life and pensions market," SNS chairman Sjoerd van Keulen commented.

"Although the transaction comes soon after SNS' acquisition of AXA Netherlands, SNS has the management resources to safeguard the integration process," he continued.

Its acquisition bid, if successful, also allows SNS Reaal access to the Swiss Life Network, which provides employee benefit solutions to multi-national companies and pension solution providers.

According to SNS, Zwitserleven will continue to largely operate as a stand-alone company, led by its existing management team. Its present CEO, Marco Keim, will join the Reaal Insurances board, together with another team member.

"Keim will lead the integration of AXA Netherlands and Winterthur into Zwitserleven,", SNS said in a statement. It forecasts annual savings of the merger will be €35m, once the merger process is completed in 2012.

SNS expects to shed 300 staff in total, but stressed that there would not be any forced redundancies.

Zwitserleven - the Dutch branch - generated €1.2bn gross written premiums (GWP) in 2006, SNS said. The company employs 713 staff currently.

SNS indicated it intends to create a "pensions expertise centre" at Zwitserleven's head office in Amstelveen while Zwitserleven will also gain access to SNS Reaal's distributions platform and product range.

According to SNS, the Brussels-based Swiss Life Belgium generated €475m of GWP last year. It employs 360 staff.

Swiss Life's Asset Management in the Netherlands adds €12bn to SNS Reaal's assets under management, SNS said.

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